Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dear Costa Rica, I won't miss you

As some of you may know, I spent the last four years in Costa Rica, and anticipated a move during the last two years.  The move has finally happened, and we are settling into our new apartment in Northern Germany (there's no fun or privacy in getting TOO detailed as to my whereabouts ;-)).  Is it cold?  Yes.  Is the architecture badass?  Yes.  Am I losing my mind with chocolate and cheese lust?  Yes, definitely. 

My first impressions are good, people are very friendly and polite, the service is good, the food is fatty and delicious, and people actually stop for pedestrians!  I'm told this is most unusual (minus the fatty food) for Germany, and that I must live in a magical pocket of joy and wonder.  Or could this just be a thing of perception, as I've lived in the opposite extreme for the last four years?  My husband pointed out that perhaps my time in Costa Rica has primed me to see the positive, as the service there is horrible, the food is mostly bland, all material goods (incl food) are overpriced, drivers have the temperament and decision-making skills of a 15-year-old, government services are bogged down in bureaucracy and greed, and not to mention a certain infuriating brand of almost dishonest passive-aggressiveness that I thought I would finally be able to free myself from when I moved away from Seattle. 

Costa Rica bred in me, a raging irritability, an anger, a frustration, and a generally unpleasant disposition.  At the same time, I felt a feebility, a helplessness, a weakness in my inability to change anything about my surroundings, which only made me angrier.  I don't know if it was the noise, the saddening signs of the populace's disregard for human life, the feeling of entrapment and alienation between the bars built into every property and window, or if it was simply the heat of the burning sun; whatever the cause was, there was always fuel to keep the fire burning and to let it grow, right up 'till the very end when I was mugged, in broad daylight in a public park supposedly full of police officers, a mere three weeks before my departure.  I felt fed up, or as my mother would say, "Ich habe die Schnauze voll!"

So when people ask me "will you miss Costa Rica?" I can honestly answer "no"... "but what about the heat?  You're going to miss that in Germany!" nope.  That's what down coats and hot showers are for. 

As I type this, I am shivering in my heatless-until-October apartment, my feet numb, my nose and fingers icy, yet I find myself again, enjoying the sharpness of my thoughts, and the coolness, the placidity, of my emotional composure.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

gothic butterfly

I found this amazing, velvety black butterfly outside our front door and had to share!  I'm always finding weird and amazing insects, and although butterflies are just arthropods like cockroaches (my least favorite insect!), I have a certain affinity to them and their metamorphic cycle.

Monday, August 3, 2015

modern gothic kitchen

Anyone who has ever visited my house knows my obsession with with the black/red/grey/white color scheme.  It's in my paintings, in my clothes, and in my house.  It's a mix of modernity and darkness, and it appeals to my gothic sense, but not in a tacky-velvety-sort-of-way (I'm not anti-velvet, I've just compulsively hated the feel of it since I was a child).  Don't get me wrong, I love dark victorian-style furniture, I just believe that in my house, it would look as out of place as a peacock among hens.  If I had an obscenely large house, or even just fancy baseboards, then I would probably have chosen a victorian theme, but my house is small and simple, and I'm content with being stylish in a minimalistic sense.

Recently we had our dreadful white kitchen cupboards re-painted.  I say dreadful because you can literally see every speck of dirt on anything white, and since Costa Rica's dirt/dust has a mind of its own, my white cupboards turned the color of a coffee addicts' teeth.  It was silly and frivolous of me to splurge on a paint job because of our impending move, but I wanted to enjoy just a few months of real color.

I kept the old handles :-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

laundry day

Laundry day for the average Costarican goth looks something like this...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

beauty in decay

As tiny as the country I now call home is, there are many places I have yet to visit.  I've been parasailing in the Pacific, canopy touring along the Caribbean, seen opera in the Teatro Nacional, gone drinking in the capital, melted in the heat of Golfito, walked along the abandoned native ruins of Guayabo, and of course I have seen my share of active and inactive volcanoes, lagoons, rivers and national treasures.  I still haven't seen the turtle hatching grounds, the haunted asylum, the abandoned island prison, caves with eyeless fish, but all in due time!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to San Gerardo de Dota, a cloudforest mountain town with a tiny population of about 200 people.  It was the very definition of the boonies.  As we entered some trails, I couldn't help but feel like I was walking through a foresty trail in Washington on a rainy fall day.  My sense of nostalgia was only deepened when I found cluster after cluster of beautiful, untouched fungi.  I was reminded of my autumn walks through a foresty area behind a cemetery, just minutes away from my former childhood home, where I used to wander, looking in awe at various types of fungi springing from decaying piles of forest matter.

On our walks in San Gerardo, I found dozens of types of fungi, some normal, others bizarre, but all beautiful.  Then, we stumbled upon the goth queen of all fungi; a curling dark fungi that I could only decribe as a smalk black calla lily devoid of a pistil in the center.  

To see more awesome fungi from our trip...
click here and here

UPDATE: after nerding it up for a lengthy period of time, I can now identify this lovely fungus as Craterellus Fallax, also known as black trumpet, and, my personal favorite, trumpet of death.  Hooray for the internet!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

hell hath no fury...

Centuries ago, my viking ancestors were busy raiding villages and burning houses.  Now, my living ancestors (ahem, my family) are well behaved, rule abiding christians and jews.  Instead of burning houses, they burn candles every friday night, and instead of throwing their enemies to their knees, they instead kneel down to pray for them.  They prefer tame activies such as church potlucks or sabbath service, over their ancestors' raping and pillaging.  Personally, I am not inclined to raping and pillaging, nor am I inclined to being a saintly servant of an omnipotent, power-hungry, war mongering being (wait...did I just describe the god of the old testament, or was that description of a viking leader...?).  

This may be contradictory, but there are two viewpoints I solidly agree with from each side: love and mercy (christian), and sweet sweet vengeance (the vikings, obviously).  No I won't turn the other cheek, but I will forgive you for slapping me, after I cut your hand off.  Perhaps I'm wrathful, but there is something inside of me that cries"justice!" that wants to punish people for all of the cruelty that they have forced upon others, instead of waiting for them to die and be reborn as a dung beetle.  I want fairness, I want evenness, and most of all I want people that act out of selfishness to pay for their actions.  

My latest watercolor

Saturday, August 9, 2014

anatomy of a god

What is it about demented surrealism that makes it feel so calming and grounding to paint?  

Anatomy of a God, watercolor on paper

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Clockwork Woman

The last couple months have been weird.  The murkiness of our future has been hanging over my head so heavily for the last few months, that I actually stopped obsessively dreaming about hungry black holes sucking me into nothingness.  Instead I had these ridiculous, attending-school-without-pants dreams.  You know, the one where you show up late for a class that you forgot you had (even though you are long done with school), and have to take an exam that you didn't study for, and then, to top it all off, you glance down only to discover that for some bizarre reason, you have neglected to fully dress the lower half of your body.  Fan.tastic.

We sat around waiting to see if we would move, and to which of the possible five locations we would move to, and in the end, the only option was not a financially viable one.  Doctorate applications for big U.S. universities are a nightmare, especially if you are a Non-U.S. student in a tiny country, completing your masters in a university no one in the U.S. has heard of.  The University where my husband was excepted, unfortunately, wanted us to show them a bank account with 80,000 US dollars, just so that he could be admitted and then look for funding within the system.  Just reflecting back on this makes me laugh somewhat bitterly, as we live in a country where the average monthly pay is 30 USD per 8-12 hour day.  That's 600 USD per month.  Of course, now that the exchange rate has changed, and not in our favor, it is more like 550/month.  Meanwhile the price of food and rent continues to climb, as pay for blue collar jobs and unskilled workers remains the same.

I spent a good two solid weeks trying to cheer up my morose and disappointed husband, putting on the best happy face that I could.  Let me tell you, "happy face" is exhausting!  Especially when while smiling, you are taking the (rude) brunt of someones disappointment.  I suppose in a way, I was trying to avoid my own disappointment by discouraging his.

The problem with happy face, other than being annoyingly exhausting, is that once you finally give in and confront your "negative" feelings, you are too exhausted from pretending that everything is ok and putting on a brave face, to successfully rationalize and overcome those "negative" feelings and the reasons behind them.  Some of the darkest women I've known were peppy, smiley, vivacious women, who on the inside, were secretly dying a little each day.

If there is a moral to the story, it would be to confront your fears, your disappointments, your anger.  Don't let it fester underneath the surface while pretending everything is ok.  Holding back your tears or suppressing your anger does not make you a strong person.  It makes you a broken robot.

My clockwork lady.  Watercolor on paper, reference photo for the non-clockwork lady features used (from Vogue).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

geisha in watercolor

Last year I taught English at a "Japanese" school (not actually in Japan, I should note).  The principal asked me to make a painting for it.  I really struggled with what I would paint because I tend to gravitate toward sort of intense emotive portraits which my mom describes as "schreklich" and "geistlich".  So, I settled for a geisha doing a fan dance, using a snapshot from the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha".  It wasn't very original (There are literally a dozen paintings on the internet of this particular film shot), but it was a great opportunity to practice my watercolor techniques.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Apocalyptic Seattle

Do you ever wonder what your home will look like in 1000 years?  What if humanity is wiped out and our concrete forests are just left to the mercy of time and the elements?  I feel terrible for future generations, because although I might not live to see it, we will eventually run out of places to stuff our garbage, and it is inevitable that our natural resources will be depleted if we don't change our habits (clean oxygen, anyone?).
oil pastels on crappy paper

Monday, September 16, 2013

eye candy (the importance of taking pleasure in natural beauty)

I found this delicious little creature on my fig tree.  My dog, in overenthusiastic jealousy, knocked it off with her tail, but it managed to fly over to another plant.  It's sort of like a giant ladybug, but without the spots and with a color much more vibrant.

I take enormous amounts of pleasure in looking at living things that have naturally bright or deep colors, so this was, what I would consider eye candy.  If you don't know how to break off moments out of your dreary day to take pleasure in the things around you, then I strongly encourage you to do so!  Go for a walk, and let yourself be filled with beauty.  If you live in a city, then go to a park, or for a drive.  This cookie cutter design of life that everyone expects us to lead is far too dull to be fulfilling or nourishing.  Nourish yourself.

look at that shade of red! 

preparing to take flight